Taquarius Wair suffered burns to his body in a house fire when he was just four years old

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Taquarius Wair
Credit: Taquarius Wair/ Instagram

Taquarius Wair — who was chosen as this year's recipient of the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2020 ESPYs — has lived the definition of the word.

The Mesabi Range College student was just four years old when he suffered excruciating burns to his body in a house fire during the early morning hours of March 22, 2005.

"I remember my baby screaming," Wair's mother, Shawnee, told the Minnesota Vikings, who honored the family at a home game last season. "He had soot from the top of his head [to his toes] ... I remember removing my hand from him, and his skin kind of peeled off."

Wair's sister, Shawneece, died in the blaze, and he spent a month in a coma fighting for his life with burns to more than half of his body.

"But Taquarius fought. He fought, and he's still fighting," Shawnee said of her son, who survived and lost the use of one of his hands. "He's never going to give up."

Despite the injuries he faced, Wair continued to chase his dream of playing sports. Joining Mesabi Range College's football team is a testament to this tenacity, and is one of the reasons he was awarded the Jimmy V Award by ESPN.

"It is an honor to receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance and humbling to be on a list with the previous recipients," Wair told ESPN of the award. "I use the phrase 'Don't give up' in my life every day, and I will continue to do so in the fight for my dream."

During Sunday's show, Wair was remotely presented the honor by Shaquem Griffin.

"Thank you, thank you. I appreciate this," he said, beaming. "This is humbling for me right now. I've just been through a lot. It's just in my nature not to give up."

He promised viewers: "Stay tuned."

The Jimmy V Award is named after North Carolina State University basketball coach Jim Valvano, who gave an inspiring speech while accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 1993 ESPYs with just months left to live.

“Cancer can take away all my physical abilities,” Valvano, who was battling adenocarcinoma, said in a now-iconic speech. “It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.”

Since being instituted in 2007, the award has gone to “a deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination.”

Last year, the sports outlet honored California football coach Rob Mendez who was born without arms or legs.